TAMPA, Fla. - Congressional allies close to Mitt Romney are already looking ahead to a GOP takeover next year and are trying to set the stage for a burst of post-inauguration activity, lawmakers, aides and GOP strategists told Roll Call this week.
Romney and his running mate Rep. Paul Ryan have close ties to key Republicans in both chambers who will be instrumental in pushing the former Massachusetts governor's agenda to his desk and help him hit the ground running.
And while the campaign is clearly the overwhelming focus for now, talks have already begun with Romney's transition team, led by Mike Leavitt and his staff, as well as with Romney himself, about strategies for getting his legislation through a Congress that has been locked in partisan gridlock for the past two years.
"Mike Leavitt is heading up his transition team and he's talked to several of us in the Senate," said retiring Sen. Jon Kyl (Ariz.). "We've all been talking about it."
Speaker John Boehner (Ohio) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) - who hopes to be Majority Leader next year - both have strong links to Romney's campaign and are largely on board with his agenda, of course.
Getting a Republican Senate will be critical to enacting much of the agenda, with Romney eyeing the filibuster-busting budget reconciliation process to pass sweeping tax and spending changes and to roll back much of President Barack Obama's health care law with a simple majority.
House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (Mich.) and Sen. Orrin Hatch (Utah), who is in line to be Finance Chairman if the GOP takes the Senate, could have outsized roles in that process given their jurisdiction over everything from Romney's push for a sweeping tax overhaul to overturning and replacing the health care law, and enacting a major deficit reduction package including overhauls to Medicare, Medicaid and other entitlements.
Camp is trying to set the stage to fast-track trade legislation early next year, said Rep. Patrick Tiberi (Ohio), who heads a powerful Ways and Means subcommittee and is close to Ryan and Boehner.
And Hatch and his staff have been preparing for a major tax overhaul for the past two years - telling Roll Call this week that the prospect of running the Finance Committee is the only reason why the Senator decided to run for one last term.
Hatch has been friends with Romney for years, sharing Utah roots; both are Mormons.
And Hatch noted that both he and Romney have had a history of getting legislation passed and working with Democrats - including Romney's stint in Massachusetts.
"I'm going to make this committee work whether I'm chairman or not," Hatch said. "The Democrats know that I can put both sides together."
No one, however, may be more valuable to a Romney administration than Sen. Rob Portman (Ohio). He has experience in the House, knows the budget and tax issues as well as anyone outside of Ryan and has the respect of and credibility with Democrats, aides and fellow lawmakers told Roll Call.
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